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Biographical entry Courtney, John Edgar (1934 - )

Glen Innes, New South Wales, Australia
Farmer and Ornithologist


John Edgar Courtney is an amateur ornithologist. His main interest is in the juvenile food-begging calls of birds, particularly parrots. In 1978 he showed for the first time that these calls are similar in closely related species and very different in distantly related species. For this work he was awarded the first Avi-award, Meritorious, by the Avicultural Society of Australia.


Courtrney was born in Glen Innes in 1934 and raised on a farm, which he now runs, in the Inverell district of northern New South Wales. Assisted CSIRO Division of Entomology with research on the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo and cossid moth larvae in forestry plantations 1974; assisted in presenting requested bird calls to visitors to the 16th International Ornithological Congress, Canberra, 1974. These calls formed the basis of the first Field Guide to Australian Birdsong, which ran to 12 cassettes published over 22 years. He is particularly interested in the juvenile food-begging calls of birds and showed that they are similar in closely related species and very different in distantly related species. He also found that some young cuckoos mimic the calls of the young of their host species. John Hobbs Medal, Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union 1999. New England Regional Representative, Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union 1971-78.

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  • Robin, Libby, The Flight of the Emu: a Hundred Years of Australian Ornithology 1901-2001, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2001, 492 pp. Details

Rosanne Walker